Bossypants on Body Image

Bossypants ($13.97, Amazon), Tina Fey’s new book of funny, odd and thoughtful essays, is not a fashion book, but among her stories about SNL, childhood, summer drama camp, strong father figures, crappy day jobs and gender roles, Tina tackles body image, the issue of Photoshop and other complications with being a woman.

Tina recalls first learning all that could be wrong with a woman’s body when laying on the beach next to her cousin who remarked, “Get a load of the hips on her.” Young Tina (pictured below) panicked. What was wrong with her hips? She didn’t know that hips could be wrong. She wrote that in those days “You were either blessed with a beautifully body or not. And if you were not, you cold just chill out and learn a trade. Now, if you’re not “hot” you are expected to work on it until you are...If you don’t have a good body, you’d better starve the body you have down to a neutral shape, then bolt on some breast implants, replace your teeth, dye your skin orange, inject your lips, sew on some hair, and call yourself Playmate of the year.”

In this same essay, which is titled "All Girls Must Be Everything," Tina Fey gives a list physical attributes all women are expected to have (and laments that Kim Kardashian is, perhaps, the only women who comes close to this):
  • Caucasian blue eyes
  • full Spanish lips
  • a classic button nose
  • hairless Asian skin with a California tan
  • a Jamaican dance hall ass
  • long Swedish legs
  • small Japanese feet
  • the abs of a lesbian gym owner
  • the hips of a nine-year-old boy
  • the arms of Michelle Obama
  • and doll tits
Tina goes on to wonder how, amid this type of pressure, we teach our daughters (and our friends and ourselves) how to be OK with the bodies we have. She suggests we lead by example and embrace our wide hips, acne scars and “bad nail beds.” In fact, she hopes her “soda case hips’ and thick ponytail help her daughter pick her out from a crowd.

Some have criticized Tina for her self-deprecating comedy bits about her own body since she usually looks quite good. But suffering the scrutiny of photo shoots, HDTV, and red carpets gives her good cause to point out how ridiculous we’ve become about physical expectations.

Tina writes about her weight in perhaps the best way I’ve seen a women discuss the fluctuations every woman experiences when standing on the scale. On being very, very skinny for a while she said, “everyone should try it once, like a super-short haircut or dating a white guy.” On being a little overweight she says, “Being chubby for a while (provided you don’t give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning into a Republican.” With all the health talk bouncing between eating disorders and obesity, I think this attitude is a healthy one. We have ups and downs. It’s natural. It’s also not such a big deal.

Tina also addresses Photoshop. First she talks about all the hair, makeup, lighting and stretching on too small clothing that goes into getting the original photo at any major photo shoot. This is pretty unrealistic even before the retouching begins. Many people are crusading against the horrors of Photoshop and it’s effects on body image, but Tina takes a rather different opinion:
“I don’t see a future in which we’re all anorexic and suicidal. I do see a future in which we all retouch the bejeezus out of our own pictures at home. Family Christmas cards will just be eyes and mouths in a snowman border.”
Tina thinks we’ve reached the point where Photoshop no longer fools us, especially the retouching done at major magazines. (She commented that the best Photoshop job she ever got was for Bust Magazine, which is pictured here. This tiny publication just tried to make her look like she was having her best possible day in the best possible light rather than altering her entire image). In fact, Tina thinks the whole retouching craze is better than actually altering our bodies saying “I have thus far refused to get any Botox or plastic surgery. I can’t be expected to lead the charge on everything. Let me have my Photoshop.” Fair enough. Though, I can’t help but wondering why retouching persists if we all really aren’t fooled and no one could possibly look like that.

I think the body image message in Bossypants can be summed up best by her essay titled, “I Don’t Care If You Like It: One in a series of love letters to Amy Poehler.” This brief story is really about comedy and being a women in that male dominated world. Amy was rehearsing a bit during their time at Saturday Night Live. Jimmy Fallon responded with a mock squeamish voice that it wasn’t cute and he didn’t like it. Amy shot back “I don’t care if you f---ing like it.” Perhaps this is the best attitude for smart, confident women to take in regard to their bodies, weight and fashion choices. This is who we are, and we don’t care if you like it.

Have you read Bossypants yet? What are your thoughts? (As a side note, I recommend the audio book over the actual book. Tina reads it. She makes it even funnier!)


Hope said…
I read it recently. It's such a great book!

Susanelle said…
I'm just about to read it.

Gah, will you look at those bangs!
Rachel said…
This sounds really good! I would love to hear Tina read it.
Amy V said…
Wow - I'm learning to love Tina Fey :) Her attitude toward life seems so healthy! :)
And good to know - I'll be sure and get it as an audio book!
Alaska Skagway said…
Great post! I love Tina Fey, she is always so funny. I would love to check this book out. I might be able to get some reading done during the character ed portion on my class. We have a guest speaker, so I won't be doing any teaching.

Popular posts from this blog

Happy 10th Anniversary... and goodbye.

Shop: Green Tree Jewelry

Dramatic Makeup